Bill King trots out another old favorite, conservative chestnut this week by once again suggesting that perhaps people who show up at the polls to vote should bring along some sort of identification. And, anticipating the normal progressive push-back, offers a suggestion to Democrats. Get over it.

[W]e are regularly required to produce identification for matters far more trivial than exercising our right to vote, such as cashing a check or using a credit card. So some reasonable requirement to produce proof of your identification at the poll hardly seems overly burdensome in the context of today’s society…

I would respectfully suggest to my Democratic friends that it is time to punt on this issue and get it behind us.

Bill’s assumption that Democrats would object – and precisely why they might – seems to have been summoned immediately into existence. Greg’s Opinion:

No thanks, Bill. You can respectfully ask me to give up as many rights as I’m warranted, but my answer won’t change…

The fact of the matter is that there’s a principle involved here. It’s called the right to vote. Increasing the number of impediments in front of that is not something I am willing to consider punting over. Regardless of polls, regardless of the fact that there are 99 GOP State Reps that their constituents can’t name. Regardless of anything. My position is clear: let eligible voters vote. It seems that’s not enough of a principle for Bill King.

On the one hand, both Bill and Greg start out agreeing on one point which muddles this entire discussion. Leaving all hyperbole and hyperventilating aside, there has probably not been any significant amount of voter fraud in sufficient quantity to alter the outcome of a state or congressional level election in living memory, to say nothing of a presidential race. Mobilizing that many people to act in concert without being apprehended seems unlikely in the extreme.

But that’s only if you’re talking about the efforts of one person or group spread out across a massive playing field. What about at the micro level? Plenty of state and county legislative elections frequently go into recounts and are decided by a margin of 100 votes or less. (They’re still counting two races in my county as this is being written.) Shenanigans in the election process at that level can have a profound effect, and if they happen often enough across the state and nation, even if not coming from one central command center, the outcome may become suspect.

But the idea of ID cards always sets off multiple firestorms. On the one hand, as Bill King notes, it’s a rather flagrantly partisan and shallow argument.

Of course, the debate over voter ID is completely disingenuous on both sides. Republicans speculate that their likely voters will have an easier time producing an ID than Democratic voters and thereby gain some infinitesimal electoral advantage. This, of course, is precisely the same reason Democrats oppose it. Neither side really gives two hoots and a holler about whether there is really any voter fraud going on or not, just whether the system (current or proposed) favors their side.

Oddly enough, some of the same Republicans and conservatives who like the idea of ID for voting are frequently the first to stand up and oppose the idea of a national ID card which could significantly assist in immigration and law enforcement efforts.

But let’s say we could get something like this organized. What would you need to make sure it was not only effective, but legal? Well, first of all, if you’re going to use such an ID for voting, it’s going to have to be free. (If it’s not and the government charges you a fee for it, that’s effectively a tax. This then opens up a line of argument that it’s a Poll Tax and it becomes constitutionally problematic.) And this means that it’s going to have to be paid for with tax revenue.

Could such an ID be pushed further? (On a strictly optional basis, of course.) Could travelers offer to go through a lengthy screening process such as one undertakes if they want a job with the government, and get themselves pre-approved for security concerns, helping out with those nasty TSA lines at the airport? Honestly, I don’t see the problem with it.

Then again, in total disregard for my more libertarian roots, I’m one of those strange ducks who doesn’t have a big problem with a national database of ID for everyone living in our borders, up to and including photographs, fingerprints, retinal scans and DNA. A healthy amount of suspicion of the government is one thing, but if you’re going to have a government and a law enforcement structure, it would be nice to have them actually be able to catch the real bad guys a bit more efficiently.

So what do you think? Yea or nay on ID requirements for voting? National ID cards if they’re not mandatory? Or shall we scrap them all, including drivers licenses, and put everyone on the honor system?